Manny Jacinto Interview: ‘The Good Place’
Manny Jacinto plays the lovable fool Jason Mendoza in NBC’s “The Good Place,” a role that has taught him to be freer as a performer. Jason might not have a ton of knowledge and he has a penchant for saying whatever is on his mind, but he also has such carefree confidence in himself that his positive spirit is infectious. While Jacinto admits he relates more to the tightly-wound, analytical Chidi (William Jackson Harper), the process of playing Jason has helped him get out of his own head. “With Jason, it’s let me be more loose and going with the flow. It’s just an adventure. It’s just a ride and I think that’s the biggest thing that Jason’s taught me, to just have fun,” Jacinto explains in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above).
Season 3 of “The Good Place” found Jason becoming more selfless as a person, growing out of his hooligan ways and trying to help his family and friends turn their lives around. This evolution has been gratifying for Jacinto to play, especially considering the character could just be stuck in a state of arrested development forever. “In the wrong hands, this character can become very flat and one-sided,” Jacinto says. “We all continue to evolve and we continue to play around with things that we’ve never been able to play with before and stretch our muscles in different ways. It was such a pleasure to give him a bit more growth this season.”
Jason’s biggest episode of the season was “The Ballad of Donkey Doug,” where he goes back to Jacksonville to help his father (Mitch Narito) and partner in crime Pillboi (Eugene Cordero). This was a very special episode for Jacinto, considering he got to work with fellow Filipino actors without necessarily having to call attention to their identity. “It’s super rare to have Filipinos specifically in a scene all together where they’re not really talking about their culture or speaking their language and they’re just three dudes hanging out,” Jacinto states. “That in itself was incredible to me that we were able to just play around and be goofs.”
One of the most fascinating (and adorable) relationships on the show is Jason and Janet (D’Arcy Carden), the all-knowing AI guide who gradually falls in love with him over the course of the series. After spending most of the season with Tahani (Jameela Jamil), Jason eventually learns about his past with Janet in the Good Place and rekindles his relationship with her. They may seem like an odd pair but Jacinto suggests they are able to help each other grow. “Jason has an impulsiveness about him and he’s willing to take risks and be himself whereas Janet doesn’t necessarily have that, and through that interaction, they’re evolving in different aspects of their personalities,” he observes. “Jason is becoming less selfish and he’s more cognizant of things because of Janet. He’s starting to be more mature and take on more responsibility and Janet is learning to loosen up and have fun.”
It was announced shortly after this interview that “The Good Place” would be ending with its upcoming fourth season. Jacinto promises an “emotional ride” in these final episodes as we say goodbye to Jason and the rest of the gang. “It’ll be a funny, twisty-turny but also emotional ride. That’s what it comes down to.” As Jacinto prepares to branch out into the world of film, including a role in the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick,” he is open to anything as long as it’s not too much like Jason Mendoza. “A Marvel film in that world or whether it be an A24 indie project, at this point, as long as it’s a great story and I resonate with it, I’m happy to be on board,” he declares. But for him and the millions of “Good Place” fans who have watched him these past three years, he will always be Jason Mendoza. “I love Jason. He’s always gonna be a part of me!”